Like most holidays, Father’s Day is a time to reflect on the present, to look back and remember what’s gone, and to share hopes for what’s to come. That sort of thing is easier for some than for others. For me, it’s like whiskey. The trick is in the amount. A little is good, but too much can make you crazy.
I can barely remember my own father, and my children don’t always think I’m as wise and benevolent as I feel. All of this, plus my deep-rooted desire to avoid participation holidays having to do with me (my birthdays, etc.), finds me hunkered down on these days, partially grateful for any overtures and mostly waiting for the next morning, when things will return to whatever approximates normal.
So when Swedish songwriter Tom Levin emailed me about his new song, “Father to a Son,” a good and timely song about the difficulties of both being and having a father, and the often overlooked, but vastly important, legacy one creates through those relationships, it got me thinking about parental music. A trip too far down that rabbit hole, like most introspection about one’s struggle to be good at what matters while simultaneously being excellent at much of what doesn’t, is to be avoided. For sure.
But if I were to give a musical sermon to my children, it would sound something like this.
I haven’t done a particularly good job of doing all that stuff, but such was my intent, to the extent intent matters. The anti-new age parent in me says it matters a little, but only a little. To try is to fail with honor and all that. But if intent is the precursor to action, maybe it matters more than we think. In other words, to be you have to become. To go someplace, you have to think about the direction you should travel.
Another musical message that I adhere to in theory, if not in action, is this one.
Well all the friends that you knew in school
They used to be so cool and they just bore you
Well look at them now, already pulling the plow
So quick to take to grain like some old mule
Young man full of big plans and thinking about tomorrow
Young man going to make a stand…
So here’s the point. It has to do with intent, and direction and becoming.
Kids, you need to decide what you want out of life before life decides for you. Not what you want right now, and not what someone tells you you should want, but what you want to do for the next few decades. Something you’re passionate about, that will allow you to make a living and a difference.
Or maybe, on Father’s Day, you’re allowed to just listen to this one (the Honky-Tonk Stardust Cowboy and the Seldom Scene are a wonderful combination) and sit on the back porch, waiting for the birds to return to the feeders.
Like most things, it’s complicated.